We spoke to Dominic Sutherland, the managing director of NextShoot, a corporate video production company in London. In the last installment of this series, Dominic Sutherland talks about being proactive and creating your own work experience.

What value do university coursework, hobbies, and extracurricular projects have for students interested in this career path?

Employers in video production look for various skills in your CV. Of course, your exam results speak to your vocational skills and your ability to perform under pressure. Work experience, however, sends out a different set of signals: about your initiative and drive along with real-world experience you will have gained from the placement.

Ideally, anyone applying for jobs in the video production sector would have industry-specific work experience on their CV, but the reality is that it’s not always possible. The good news is that there are other effective ways of demonstrating your suitability for the video production sector on your CV without a work placement but you will need to take initiative. 

Think about the skills you might learn during an internship, you can draw out those same attributes from your university coursework - say a filming project - or even a hobby that you may have. It’s worth framing these on your CV as you would work experience, highlighting your proven abilities such as team-work, delivering to tight deadlines, and budget management. 

While coursework and hobbies offer an opportunity to explore your relevant skill-set, my recommendation would always be to get your own industry-relevant passion project off the ground. The candidates who stand out for any entry-level role in the Creative Industries are those who are so passionate about their interest that they are constantly experimenting, collaborating, and producing work.  A well-defined passion project will give you a distinct heading on your CV that could have the same weight as a two-week internship.

What advice do you have for students who have creative ideas, but lack equipment or the necessary finances? 

Video production is a broad umbrella under which there are many different job roles and career paths. Of course, if you are putting your energy into creating a passion project for your CV, then you want to design it to show off your particular skills and preferred job role - as a producer, editor, or camera operator, for example. The best thing you can produce is a completed video and talk through your pre-production, filming and post production.

Clearly, to produce a video will require you to source equipment and quite likely draw in collaborators with particular skills. Don’t be shy to ask equipment hire facilities for a favour on rental kit, or better still you could borrow one from a peer for free. But, of course, you will need other equipment, as well as money for food, travel and so forth. By carefully selecting your collaborators you might be able to cover off all the kit you require through them without the need to hire in by allowing self promotion for everyone involved.. If you can keep the story-line simple and the filming to a single day, that can make the project more achievable. Recording sound, especially actors’ lines, always adds more issues so it’s worth considering if your project can be designed without dialogue. 

Another thought is that you could create a film entirely on your phone. What you are looking to demonstrate is your initiative and an understanding of your craft. In fact, it’s a powerful message to say that you didn’t have the funds to actually produce your idea, but it didn’t stop you from conceiving it, working out the costs, planning the shots, and creating a video shot on a phone that gives a feel for what it would look like with the right kit and funds. 

What makes a video project a good example of skills and experience to show to prospective employers?

One applicant for an internship at NextShoot used her summer holiday to make a video about her travels with friends in Greece. Shot on a DSLR with no natural sound and edited with an uplifting soundtrack, it gave her a chance to create an engaging montage video shot in natural light and at interesting locations that demonstrated her skills, judgment and passion for film to prospective employers. She got in touch, linking to her video in her Covering Letter. She got the place. 

With any passion project that you undertake, it’s important to make sure the finished work is well-considered. While a potential employer reviewing it will be forgiving about the quality of the lighting, the lenses, and the performances of actors, the story (whatever the genre) needs to make sense and the edit needs to be well structured for it to make a positive impact. If you can create a considered, well-executed piece and frame it properly for potential employers you may well find that creating your own work experience also helps you to manifest your first job. So go ahead, be proactive, show your passion and you might see the results you want!

NextShoot is a small video agency, but we do offer year-round work placements to undergraduates. For details on this please visit the NextShoot work experience page.